Brachial Plexus Injury

Injury to the brachial plexus – an important collection of nerves located below the arms – typically occurs during childbirth. Newborns suffer injury to the brachial plexus when the nerves tear away from the spinal cord during a difficult delivery. Damage to these nerves results in muscle problems controlling the movement of the elbows, hands, arms and shoulders. Stretched nerves can also become damaged to the point where the brain’s ability to conduct information controlling the associated muscles is diminished.

A number of birthing variables can lead to brachial plexus injury, including a breech or premature birth. A breech birth occurs when the fetus fails to turn in the birth canal and is born legs-first instead of the desired head-first position. Not only is this a dangerous situation that may cause the baby to become asphyxiated, but it can also cause shoulder nerve damage.

Premature birth is another risk factor for brachial plexus. Since nerves and muscles are not fully formed, many premature babies are susceptible to brachial plexus injury, especially when forceps are used during the birthing process. Unfortunately, forceps used to affect movement of the baby through the mother’s birth canal may produce too much force resulting in damage to the arms and shoulders.

Other reasons for brachial plexus injury include women having a small pelvis, prolonged labor, as well as larger-sized babies having birthing difficulty.

Medical professionals should take appropriate steps to minimize the risks and consequences of brachial plexus injury such as Erb’s Palsy (paralysis or weakness of the arm). Such steps may include breaking the clavicle or delivery by cesarean. If a baby suffers consequences of a brachial plexus injury due to a doctor’s negligence, consult an attorney about the situation to learn about the available legal options.